Reigning champion San Juan locks horns with Makati while last season’s runner-up Davao Occidental battles Basilan in a literal win-or-go home Division Finals as the the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season resumes on Wednesday, March 10, at the Subic Gymnasium under a sports bubble setup.
Hostilities begin at 4 p.m., with the Tigers taking on the Steel for the South Division crown in the first game and the Knights clashing against the Super Crunch for the North Division title with a one-hour disinfection in between games.
San Juan and Basilan drew first blood in the best-of-three series but Makati and Davao both forced a decisive Game 3 before the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the season-ender last year.
Protagonists in the 2018-19 Datu Cup, the Knights and the Tigers are expected to arrange a grudge rematch in the best-of-five National Finals slated to fire off on March 12.
But MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said the players’ conditioning coming off a long layoff due to the pandemic will be a telling factor in the all-important matches.
“We still don’t know if the players are still in good shape,” said Duremdes during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Go For Gold, Milo, Amelie Hotel, Braska Restaurant, PAGCOR, and powered by Smart with Upstream Media as webcast partner.
“Although they are strong on paper, we’ll see tomorrow if they maintained their conditioning during the lockdown,” added the 47-year-old league chief, who was speaking from his quarantine hotel in Subic.
The Davao-Basilan tiff will be televised via the A2Z channel while the San Juan-Makati tussle will be aired via Facebook live on MPBL’s page.
Duremdes vowed that they will follow all the protocols laid down by the IATF, DOH and SBMA for the amateur league to resume.
“Since last year, we’re already planning and applying for the special resumption of our league. For us, even though we are an amateur league, if we follow the strict guidelines, I don’t think there will be problems with regards to the bubble,” he said.
“Regardless of the status of the league, what’s important is we must follow all the protocols.”
Duremdes also assured that they are on top of the situation should someone among the more or less than 100 delegates test positive for the deadly virus.
Teams and league staff arrived at the quarantine hotel by batches to lessen the spread of the virus if a positive case emerges.
Delegates can only proceed to the accommodation hotel once they test negative in the initial swab test. Saliva tests will be done every seven days to ensure the safety of the bubble.
Violators will be thrown out of the bubble immediately and may be penalized by the league later on. Duremdes also stressed that a breach of the guidelines may result in the cancellation of games.